Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a special event at Whole Foods Market called Lunchbox Bootcamp. The goal? To give us ideas for healthy lunchbox ideas for little ones. Admittedly, this is an area I could use some inspiration in, as I often feel like I grab whatever I can to shove in my son’s box! I wanted to give you an inside peek at last night’s event, along with a few recipes and tips for making healthy lunches!
When I arrived, Chef Chad Sarno (Executive Chef for Whole Foods Market from Austin!) was already whipping up some delicious hors d’oeuvres for us to enjoy!
The eats were healthy, and inventive…and 100% plant based. LOVE. See this can of young green jackfruit?
Chef Sarno cleverly turned it into “meat” for carnitas. DELICIOUS. As in, insanely delicious and we all could not get enough of these!
And, there *might* have been a little wine. (These Whole Foods Market people really need to come cater my next party…)
Once we were settled in, we had a chance to learn more about what Whole Foods Market calls the “Healthy Eating Four Pillars.” If you’re confused about what healthy eating really looks like, these pillars cut through a lot of the confusion, no matter your particular diet bent:
1. Whole Food. As much as possible, choose foods in their natural, unprocessed state, avoiding foods with artificial ingredients, hydrogenated fats, etc.
2. Healthy Fats. Opt for fats from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Work to reduce the amount of fat you eat from extracted oils and animal fats. (Later in the cooking demonstration, Chef Sarno demonstrated that you could saute vegetables using NO oil, and just a little bit of broth or water to finish and de-glaze the pan. Genius – and you’ve just saved yourself a few hundred needless calories!)
3. Plant Strong. Simply put, eat more plants! Whether or not you’re a vegan, work to ensure that the majority of your plate includes a variety of plants like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grains. Make sure to eat the rainbow!
4. Nutrient Dense. Not all foods are created equal – whole foods included! Work to include foods that give you the most bang for your buck (er…bite?). To help you, Whole Foods Market has what they call an ANDI Score (stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which rates the nutritional density of certain foods.
With this as a basis, Chef Sarno dove in to create some kid-friendly whole food, plant-based recipes for back to school. The first thing he did?
Fired up the Vitamix and made…
A green smoothie! (Man oh man is this dude a guy after my own heart.) Now I’ve had some pretty bitter green smoothies and I can chug ’em down like nobody’s business, but this green smoothie was quite sweet and would be a perfect introduction for your child!
Green Power Smoothie
2 cups almond milk (or dairy-free milk of your choice)*
1 cup fresh berries
1/2 t vanilla bean, or extract
2 dates pitted
Handful of kale
Handful of spinach
Blend all in high-speed blender until smooth. *Chef Sarno made his own almond milk by soaking 1 cup almonds 4+ hours overnight in filtered water and then blending with 3-4 cups filtered water in a high speed blender. Then, he poured the mixture into a cheesecloth to strain out the liquid.
Next up, a delicious and nutritious alternative to cookies!
Here is a basic recipe you could use…
1 cup cashews, minced finely (almost powder)
1 cup chopped apricots (you could soak them to moisten)
1 cup dried coconut
3 T lemon zest
1/3 cup honey
pinch sea salt
Simply process all until minced and bind together and roll into balls! Refrigerate. Man, oh man – these are delicious! You could use other dried fruit in place of the apricots too such as dates or goji berries, or add seeds.
Here’s another remixed kids’ recipe: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
I personally ADORED this recipe and cannot wait to test it out on my son!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Almond or other nut butter
Fresh Fruit (Chef Sarno used sliced strawberries and bananas)
To make the date paste, soak dates overnight in filtered water. The next day, blend in a high speed blender. You can use this paste as a sweetener, such as on oatmeal or in baking. In this case, you’ll use the date paste as a substitute for jam. The paste should keep for up to a month in your fridge.
The taste definitely reminded me of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I loved the healthier spin on it!
Here’s one more idea that would be perfect for an after-school snack or dinner:
1 block of tofu
1 1/2 tahini
2 cloves minced garlic
3 T nutritional yeast (you can find this in the bulk section)
fresh ground nutmeg
squeeze of lemon
1 t sea salt
Cracked black pepper
2 T finely minced shallot
2 T minced parsley
In a small mixing bowl, crumble the tofu and mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated. For last night’s recipe, Chef Sarno put it on pita bread with some red sauce and fresh vegetables and baked in the oven.
Are you interested to learn more about healthy eating – for yourself and your family? Or maybe you’d like some more recipes? Whole Foods Market’s website has a wealth of information and tips, and it’s worth taking some time to check it out! Here are a few notable pages to check out:
Healthy Eating for Parents & Kids: information for good childhood nutrition along with more recipes and ideas.
Health Starts Here: learn more about the four pillars of healthy eating, and learn about the specially-branded “Health Starts Here” foods you’ll find throughout the store.
Recipes: find some fantastic new whole foods recipes to jazz up your meal plan this week. Healthy eating does NOT have to be boring.
I’d like to personally thank the kind folks at Whole Foods Market for a fun and informative event last night! I always leave their store inspired to feed my family better! For more information about making Whole Foods Market shopping more affordable, please read my post called 25 Ways to Save at Whole Foods Market. If you’re on Twitter, you can also see more tweets from last night’s event at the hashtag #lunchboxbootcamp.
I also plan on doing more with sharing healthy back to school recipes as we approach September. I’d love to hear from you now – how to you keep your child’s lunchbox healthy? What struggles do you have in doing so? What can I do to help inspire and encourage you to send your kids off with healthy school lunches this year?